Our final match for this visit to the land of Otaria, Sam and I are eager to put the final two decks to the test. I’m up with Trounce-O-Matic, the Green stompy deck with a tricky Blue twist. For Sam, she’s playing with fire by piloting the burn-heavy Pressure Cooker. Will her removal be enough to keep my beaters contained? Or will I hit threshold and power past whatever she manages to throw my way? Only one way to find out…
The last deck of our Odyssey review could lay plausible claim to having the worst name ever given to a preconstructed deck. Groanworthy moniker aside, Trounce-O-Matic is a worthy addition to the stable of Simic (Blue/Green) beaters decks, combining elements that we don’t always naturally associate as going along together. Red/Green combinations tend to be a bit more common, using Red burn to clear the way for Green beaters, but Blue’s ability to remove creatures from the battlefield- albeit usually temporarily- gives it something to bring to the table. For Trounce-O-Matic, a deck which relies upon the threshold mechanic, this expends to the ability to get cards into the graveyard as well.
With Odyssey being the predecessor set of Innistrad, it’s not unexpected that we see some familiar themes here. The idea of Blue being the colour that best fills up the graveyard is no exception, with cards like Dream Twist, Stitched Drake, Deranged Assistant, and even Laboratory Maniac heavily tied to that objective. The Innistrad deck Eldritch Onslaught leaned heavily on such tactics as a way to get take advantage of the flashback mechanic, under the idea that milling cards into your graveyard offers a virtual hand size increase. Flashback, of course, originated in Odyssey, and we saw Eldritch Onslaught’s ancestor in One-Two Punch. Trounce-O-Matic takes a different tack, looking to fill its graveyard to turn on threshold. We saw something similar in Liftoff, which centered around the Mystics- White weenie creatures that became airborne when you had seven or more card in the graveyard. Now we’ll be taking a different look at the mechanic. Instead of small creatures being granted evasion, howabout they just get bigger instead?
Sam and I are ready to square off in our third feature match of Odyssey decks. For my part, I’ll be piloting the subject of our current review, Pressure Cooker. A Red/Black deck with heavy removal, Sam has her work cut out for her with Liftoff. Her deck relies on flooding the field with cheap creatures which become much more robust when she hits threshold. Of course, all my removal is going to help fill her graveyard, so it will be an intriguing matchup. Here are out notes.
If there can be said to be a bête noir amongst preconstructed decks, a particularly dreaded aspect of their construction, it is certainly without exception the removal package. To understand why, we have to consider the power level of precons. On the far end of the power scale of Constructed play, we might see brutal- even degenerate- combo decks in Vintage or Legacy that can scalp their opponent on the second turn. With decks such as these, you really needn’t worry about any creatures the other player is packing, because for the most part you’re just going right for the kill. Your ‘removal’ package is often nonexistant, because what you really need is a way to disrupt their combo while searching for your own, such as with a Force of Will. Massive storm counts before blowing your opponent away with an equally massive Empty the Warrens or Tendrils of Agony. Blowing them up with Goblin Charbelcher. Dredging your way to a win. These decks tend to play against themselves to some degree as much as playing against an opponent. Other decks, like Landstill, might use broadstroke sweepers to clear the board if facing a creature rush, like Wrath of God or Engineered Explosives.
On the other end of the power scale, duels with precon or casual decks without removal devolve into creature wars with much more predictable outcomes- barring, of course, the occasional combat trick. Quicker, more aggressive decks will stall out against midrange decks, with little hope of securing victory or finishing off their opponent. Such decks quickly become boring and dull to play, with little to give the player continued interest in piloting the deck. Clearly, then, a certain amount of ability to deal with your opponent’s threats is an important factor in the construction of a precon deck, and even the least of these will usually have one or two.
For our next exploration into Otaria- the world of Odyssey- I’ll be piloting the conditional ‘skies’ deck Liftoff. Beginning as a White weenie deck that powers into flying through threshold, I’ll be up against Sam. For her part, she’s opted for the flashback-filled One-Two Punch. Here are the notes from our engagement.
Just as Innistrad had its own Blue/White ‘skies’ deck, perhaps it is only appropriate that Innistrad’s predecessor, Odyssey, have the same. Of course, just like Spectral Legions, little about this deck conforms to the norm of the typical aerial deck. For one thing, Liftoff has a grand total of five fliers, which lends itself to a natural skepticism of how it can even lay claim to being a skies deck in the first place. The answer lies within the second of Odyssey’s two major mechanics. The first, flashback, was a heavy focus of the previous deck, One-Two Punch. And while it makes a cameo appearance here (a single copy of Embolden), Liftoff centers around the other, more creature-centric mechanic, threshold.
Threshold is a mechanic which has an effect contingent upon the size of your graveyard. This is actually the poster-child for a general class of mechanics, as Mark Rosewater wrote on his piece on Scars of Mirrodin’s metalcraft. In general, these types of mechanics follow a fairly predictable standard in that they present you with a creature or spell that’s slightly inefficient for its cost. Then, if a certain condition is met, they actually become more efficient than normal. Rosewater uses the card Springing Tiger as an example of threshold, and it is the perfect example to illustrate this principle. On its own it is a four-mana 3/3, which is rather poor (particularly in Green). However, under a certain condition it becomes a 5/5, which for four mana is now a good deal! The objective with decks based around these mechanics, then, is to ensure that the condition that triggers the ‘upgrade’ is on as much as possible. The longer it remains on, naturally, the greater your advantage.
It is that philosophy, then, that guides the very heart of Liftoff.
With as much fun as Jimi and I had for Innistrad, Sam is eager to get back into the mix and ready to experience Odyssey. For her deck she’s selected the Blue/Green Trounce-O-Matic, while I’ll be taking the flashback-filled One-Two Punch into battle. Here are the notes from our match.
All good stories- like all good things- must come to an end. It is trite but true, and this was the situation facing Wizards for their 2001 release. Weatherlight, which came out in June of 1997, had ushered in the first long-standing story arc in the history of the game. “The Weatherlight Saga,” as it would be known, continued in one way or another for the next four expansions. The real story kicked off in 1997′s Tempest block, continued in 1999′s Mercadian Masques block, then wound its way through the following year’s Invasion block. The small break in the middle- 1998′s Urza’s Saga- was set as a sort of prequel or backstory to the whole affair. All told, the Saga spanned thirteen different releases of the game.
It was time, concluded Wizards, for something new.